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UNLV Students Win WSJ Collegiate Case Competition

The Collegiate Case Competition provides sponsoring organizations with the opportunity to gain Gen Z insights

A group of students from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas were given the opportunity to bridge the generation gap between The Wall Street Journal and Gen Z through the American Marketing Association’s latest Case Competition at the Collegiate Conference in New Orleans. The students—including Cameron Coaley, Lorenzo Scardicchio, Kaylin Van Niekerk, Layla Muhammad and Ahlam Ailah Barretto—took first prize in the tentpole contest with a presentation that demonstrated how The Wall Street Journal, which is challenged with the perception that it is exclusively for business students, can best appeal to students of other majors.

The competition was fierce. More than 1,400 AMA collegiate members and their sponsors attended the conference, where teams are formed from a selection of more than 11,000 AMA students from 386 AMA collegiate chapters. They’ve spent a semester tackling real-world marketing challenges submitted by sponsor organizations. As many as 10 teams are named finalists and present their solutions at the Collegiate Conference, with the winning team presenting their insights to all conference attendees.

“The quality of the students’ case responses is outstanding,” says Lily Cloake, the marketing director for education and students at The Wall Street Journal. “The research and creativity is unparalleled, and it has been invaluable to have access to and insights from this important audience. There’s no one better to tell us what we should be doing for this audience than students themselves.”

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The 2020 AMA International Collegiate Conference; March 12-14 in New Orleans

UNLV’s victory continued to impress after the conference concluded. The marketing team from The Wall Street Journal was so thrilled by their efforts, which included substantial data into Gen Z demographics, that the students were invited to present their plan at the Dow Jones office in New York City—a first for the AMA Collegiate Case Competition.

“The morning of the presentation we were all so nervous; we had a hard time wrapping our heads around the breadth of this presentation,” says Van Niekerk, a senior at UNLV’s Lee Business School. “Our nerves only calmed once we began presenting to the room of WSJ associates with CMO Suzi Watford, sitting dead center, furiously taking notes. … After we presented, we were shocked that so many people wanted to ask us questions—including Suzi, who remarked that while she knew we were good from what Lily Cloake had told her, she didn’t know we were that good.”

In fact, the students were immediately offered the opportunity to interview for open positions at The Wall Street Journal, including marketing associate for student members. Van Niekerk says she is currently in the process of scheduling her second interview. Her teammate Scardicchio recently accepted a job as a consultant for the paper.

Van Niekerk found her experience at the Collegiate Case Competition to be a highlight of her time at college. “I’m graduating this year, and after four years I can’t say I’ve learned as much as I have during the six months on this case,” she says. “I’ve learned so much that I can put into a real-world job. Someone convinced me to do the case team, and I’m so glad I did because it’s changed everything.”

The Collegiate Case Competition provides sponsoring organizations with the opportunity to gain Gen Z insights, which includes original quantitative and qualitative research and comprehensive marketing strategies. But they also have the chance to interact with marketing students, inspire brand loyalty and recruit potential talent for internship and employment opportunities. Past competition sponsors include Nintendo, Mary Kay and Dunkin’ Donuts.

“The AMA is a great partner—they’re easy to work with and really own the logistics of the complicated and thorough Case Competition process,” Cloake says. “We had a great level of input, but also felt confident in the execution by the excellent team at the AMA.”